Sunday, June 23, 2024

CUSD Teachers of the Year Recognized; New School Calendar Approved and More Layoffs

Four teachers were recognized for excellence in education, and the new calendar for the 2024-2025 school year was approved at the meeting of the Coronado Unified School District trustees on Thursday, April 19.

The board recognized Coronado High School teacher Nicole Belong, Silver Strand Elementary teacher Gisele Renly, Kelly Fortson from Village Elementary School and Linda Kullmann from Coronado Middle School, who was also named the CUSD teacher of the year.

Kelly Fortson, Gisele Renly, Nicole Belong and Linda Kullmann were named “Teacher of the Year” at each of their school sites. Kullmann was also named “CUSD Teacher of the Year.”

Kullmann, a CHS grad herself, has been teaching in CUSD for 31 one years, according to CMS Principal Brooke Falar. During her tenure she’s taught fifth grade, elementary school choir, middle school choir, high school choir, drama, teen issues, study skills, newspaper, yearbook, KCMS, sixth grade humanities, performing arts wheel, advanced performing arts and even an academic lab class.

But where Kullmann shines is guiding students through music and performing arts.

“She has given students a love for music and they have shared their love with this city as they perform at many events around the island,” said Falar. “She brings music alive and makes it relevant to students in their everyday lives.”

Layoffs Continue Amidst Budget Crunch

Several teachers who work with struggling readers have been told their positions will be eliminated, said Jennifer Landry in her report from the Association of Coronado Teachers. These reductions are in addition to ones previously voted on last month, according to Landry.

In some cases, these teachers provide targeted support for the district’s lowest achieving students. Landry expressed concern that parents and other staff members were not being informed of the changes.

Maria Simon, spokesperson for the district, confirmed by email that two part-time positions that provide English Language Development (ELD) instruction, testing, and coordination are being eliminated at both elementary schools. She said the district will provide ELD support in the general education classroom and through reading specialists at both schools.

Later in the meeting, Trustee Renee Cavanaugh said she wanted to acknowledge the emails and letters she’d received from community members about the layoffs. She said reducing or eliminating positions is not something that is taken lightly.

“I know that our district takes every precaution they can to ensure these reductions don’t happen. But sometimes, no matter how careful financial planning and projections are, it just doesn’t line up with our final funding amounts,” said Cavanaugh. “I understand the anxiety that some people are feeling and I’m hoping a positive outcome is still possible with that.”

In his report, district Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca shared that 16 community members attended the last Budget Study Committee meeting. He said that the district is dedicated to maintaining transparency within the community, and has a slide deck and new documents for public viewing on the district website. This includes ongoing negotiations with labor groups.

Trustee Scot Youngblood, who attended the district’s Budget Study Committee meeting, said he, along with other trustees and administration, are taking a closer look at district expenditures.

“It’s very sobering when you look at all of the factors and the currents of decreasing revenue and increasing costs,” said Youngblood. “I want everyone to know that there is additional scrutiny being placed on the budget and all the line items.”

New Calendar Approved

The board also approved the 2024-2025 instructional calendar. While students had previously advocated for a new calendar that put finals before winter break, that change was not implemented.

“This calendar is not what we expressed a desire to see, in terms of advancing the beginning of the school year and aligning the winter break after finals…” said Trustee Whitney Antrim. “But we needed a calendar, yesterday…”

Youngblood echoed Antrim’s comments, including the need for a more timely calendar and to possibly implement new changes in future calendars.

“I’m glad we are finally approving it,” said Youngblood. While I certainly see a lot of benefit in wrapping up finals before winter break, there’s probably no perfect calendar.”

Trustees Address Sewage Concerns

Trustee Antrim said that she hopes to bring a “stack of letters” to Governor Newsom’s office urging him to take action on the sewage crisis when she represents the district at the California School Board Association meeting in Sacramento in May.

She drafted a template letter that concerned community members can sign that will be included in a mass-delivery to Sacramento. Those interested are asked to fill in and return the letter to the box in the lobby of the District Office by Wednesday, May 15.

Trustee Alexia Palacios-Peters said that she applauded the letter along with the ongoing efforts of students and community members urging for government help in the sewage crisis.

“It shows our support to the community, the surrounding communities and our students who have asked us to support them, and I love the idea of the individual letters and taking a stack of letters so I hope that people in our community and our students will take advantage of that,” said Palacios-Peters.

Other Board Happenings

Megan Battle, Director of Learning, shared information about the district’s latest grant, Project C3+, which helps bring together computer science, science engineering and mathematics practices to increase academic achievement in all areas. She also shared that the district would launch a new opportunity for students to get drone certification in commercial and FAA drone flight.

Earlier in the meeting, teacher Kelly Fortson shared information about Anchored for Life, a district-wide program which helps military students connect with others in the community and find success in CUSD. Not only do military families get extra support when they move into the district, but when a family member is deployed, students get their own “deployment kit” with resources and information to make the change more manageable.

Two NJROTC students, Aiden Anderson and Kyle Kuester, shared information about the program and the benefits it brings to students. But they also expressed concerns that, within the CUSD community, it can be hard for military kids to connect with civilian students. They hoped for future changes that could lead to a more open community.

In her report, Jennifer Landry also shared information about music teacher Matt Heinecke in the member spotlight. Heinecke started working for the district in 2007 and has fulfilled roles such as CoSA Instrumental Music Chair, Village band director, electronic music instructor, guitar class instructor, AP music theory instructor, and he’s currently the band director for CHS and CMS. A CHS grad himself, Heinecke recently took his CHS band to the California Music Educators association Band and Orchestra Festival where the Islander Band took home a top rating of “Unanimous Superior.” This is the first time in decades that an Islander band has earned this distinction.

Earlier in the meeting Superintendent Karl Mueller celebrated the life of Kathy Vienna who spent decades working with public school students to ensure they achieved their full potential. She worked with Coronado Schools Foundation and the school board for two terms and helped build several capital improvement projects, the Early Childhood Development Center, the Brian Bent Memorial Aquatic Complex, the Performing Arts Center and the CHS tennis courts.

“She leaves us with a legacy of service and excellence in Coronado and was truly a gem in our crown.”

The next regular board meeting is at May 16, 2024 at 4pm.

Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuyl
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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